Throw a snowball into the air, and there's a decent chance it will land on a newish local taproom. We boiled off the excess to bring you the best new Twin Cities breweries of 2017.
In order to qualify for this list, the brewery had to A: Open for business in 2017 and B: Be within the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. In all cases, we're excited to see what these young and passionate brewers do in 2018.
Lowertown's 12welve Eyes opened at the end of July. Featuring a youthful trio of co-owners and brewers in Dalton Buchta, Elliot Grosse and Josh Oestreich, 12welve Eyes' taproom is a hip, funky, and decidedly different from the industrial digs most favor.
Hiding their modest five-barrel system elsewhere in Lowertown's Pioneer Endicott building, 12welve Eyes' taproom has the vibe of an intimate, garden-level cafe, complete with local art adorning the walls. The relatively small size keeps them nimble, and the brewery had a wide variety of styles available on their 12 (natch) tap lines during our visit.
Expect everything from a summery, dry-hopped kettle sour to the cleverly named LIL bUZI VERT barleywine, and one of the better smoked porters you'll have outside of Lino Lakes.
Stepping into Utepils feels a little like walking into a secret garden on the edge of North Minneapolis. Decorated with splashes of copper and biergarten-style frescoes that are completely invisible from the road, the Bryn Mawr brewery founded by Dan Justesen is a romantic tribute to the old-world beer halls of Germany and Bohemia in a town full of sleek, modernist breweries.
The beer program, masterminded by former New Glarus and Summit brewer Eric Harper, is similarly traditional by intention. Eschewing English and American style ales entirely, Utepils produces a greatest hits album of German and Czech styles.
Their signature Czech Pils is as clean as the water from the nearby Glenwood spring, and just begs to be sipped greedily. The Copacetic kölsch is a charming riff on the quaffable Cologne classic, and the darker Alt 1848 altbier, is an exceptional reproduction of a tricky and rare recipe.
If we were giving away an award purely based on taproom aesthetics, then St. Paul's BlackStack Brewing would have run away with the top spot. Housed in a former canning factory on the western edge of Pig's Eye's industrial corridor, BlackStack's taproom is a masterclass in renovation. The gorgeous 40-foot bar is lit by the building's massive factory windows and accompanied by mid-century modern furniture and even a few plants. Plants!
Brewing is headed up by Town Hall and Excelsior alum Bob DuVernois, with assistance from Murphy Johnson, eldest son of BlackStack owner Scott Johnson.
While the tap list features a handful of more subtle flavors like the Ratify! wit or the occasionally coffee-infused Spare Parts dark lager, BlackStack's calling card is the delightfully juicy Local 755 New England IPA.
Arriving right on time for St. Anthony/Beltrami's transformation from post-industrial to pre-yuppie, HeadFlyer is located just north of the main Hennepin Avenue Nordeast drag. The taproom is an austere, modernist affair with tasteful dabs of neon, and shares the recently renovated Miller Textile Building with Five Watt Coffee and Mission Manor Escape Room.
In contrast to the sleek surroundings, co-owner and head brewer Neil Miller's tap list is warm and inviting, and shows more than a little bit of his homebrewer DNA. Unmoored from any major stylistic theme, HeadFlyer's beer program is drinkable and sensible, anchored by their stellar New England-style IPA It Was All a Dream.
Other fun notables include Goblin System, a Belgian IPA with a funky nose reminiscent of Boom Island's excellent Thoprock, and Wicked Jump Shots, a juicy pale ale that could give Surly's Extra Citra a black eye or two. Miller also reserves a handle for HeadFlyer's limited-run Beyond the Door series, which was a Raspberry Cocoa Stout during our latest visit.
Rookie of the Year: Barrel Theory Beer Company
Barrel Theory arrived to a deafening buzz of hype thanks to head brewer Tim Johnson and founder Brett Splinter's Surly Brewing pedigree. They're already producing stellar beer, but haven't deployed their secret weapon: A beer-aging cellar, just below the taproom, with space for roughly 150 barrels. Experiments in whiskey, wine or other spirit aging processes take time, but luckily, Barrel Theory's quicker-turn stuff is doing just fine.
The Lowertown newcomer's Rain Drops NEIPA is an immediate classic, just like the Migos song that it references. Fragrant, juicy, and as cloudy as a glass of Sunny D, Rain Drops is already in the upper echelons of locally produced IPAs.
Barrel Theory's tap list leans heavily on the hops, but Johnson also has been toying with a variety of truly delightful kettle sours, such as the berry-infused Purple Lamborghini berliner weisse, and even a few excellent stouts.
We would be remiss if we didn't give a respectful nod to Pryes Brewing Company, who opened a new taproom and expanded their selection this year but were a TKO thanks to their 3-year head start.
Following the same model that launched Central Avenue sourmeiseters Fair State, Broken ClockBrewing Collective opened their Northeast taproom for limited hours this year.
Finally, lovers of old world beers and history shouldn't miss Waldmann Brewing, a period-accurate recreation of a pre-Civil War era lager saloon, just off St. Paul's West 7th drag.